Month: February 2016

Celebrate America Saves Week

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celebrate america saves week
America Saves, You Save, I Save

 

America Saves Week is almost over, but there’s still time to start or grow your savings. I love a great celebration, so to help you celebrate America Saves Week, here are 4 simple way’s for you to do that. 

4 Ways to Celebrate America Saves Week

Happy saving!

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7 Way’s To Automate Your Savings

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7 Way's To Automate Your Savings
America Saves, You Save, I Save

 

The easiest and most effective way to save is automatically. This is how millions of employees save through 401(k) and other retirement programs at work. It is also how millions of Americans save at their bank or credit union.

How to Save Automatically

The best automatic saving is when you make a decision to do so, then it just happens:

  • Every month, your bank or credit union transfers a fixed amount from your checking account to a savings or investment account. Talk to your local bank or credit union to set this up.
  • Every pay period, your employer deducts a certain amount from your paycheck and transfers it to a retirement or savings account. Ask your HR representative for more details and to set this up.
  • If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement account start saving with myRA, a new retirement savings account from the United States Department of the Treasury. The account features no cost or fees, no complicated investment options, and no risk of losing money. Learn more.

Not sure how much to save each month? Take the America Saves Pledge. The pledge will help you create a monthly savings plan and will help you stay committed to your plan all year long!

Sometimes, building a healthy cushion of savings can seem like a daunting task. We all know how easy it is to make a late credit card payment, or to end up spending all of your paycheck without remembering to save part of it. One easy way to get started on saving this America Saves Week is to automate your savings. Having technology work to save money for you takes much of the effort out of the equation, saves time, and makes it easier for you to achieve your goals.

1. Automate Retirement Contributions

If your employer matches retirement contributions to your 401K or retirement plan, be sure to take advantage of the free money! Sign up for retirement contributions to be automatically taken out of your paycheck. This saves you money in several ways. First, it contributes money before you even see your paycheck and get an opportunity to spend that money; and second, it saves you money on taxes as it is withdrawn from your pre-tax income.

Even if you don’t have a retirement plan with your employer, you can still schedule your account to contribute automatically to your own retirement plan. Scheduling your contribution a day or two after you receive your paycheck ensures that saving for retirement is a priority.

2. Transfer Money to Savings Accounts

To prioritize savings, schedule an automatic transfer of a certain amount of your monthly income into a savings account. Your savings will benefit from being set aside from your regular spending, as well as benefitting from a higher dividend rate. Eventually, even just a small amount squirreled aside every month can translate into a healthy buffer of savings to hold you over on a rainy day.

If you are self-employed or a freelancer and you have to pay quarterly or yearly taxes on your income, sending the estimated tax you owe to a separate account every month will help you to avoid an unpleasant surprise at tax time.

3. Pay Bills Automatically

Avoid late fees by paying your bills automatically. Some bills can be put on your credit card, whereas others can be set up to be paid directly from your bank account.

It’s also a good idea to set up your credit card bill to be directly paid from your bank account. That way, you avoid late fees as well as costly interest on overdue amounts. Be sure, however, that you have enough money in your account to avoid overdrawing your account and incurring additional fees.

4. Get Money Back With Credit Card Rewards

There are many no-fee credit cards that offer cash back or rewards points. Use your card for all your regular purchases (and your monthly bills), and you’ll earn free rewards or cash back for your spending. If you plan to spend money on travel, rewards points that allow you to buy airplane tickets or hotel stays can also help save you money. Choosing the right credit card can also net you additional perks like car rental and travel insurance when you pay with your card.

It’s important to use your credit card responsibly, so be sure you can pay your balance in full every month to avoid extra fees.

5. Use Technology to Cut Energy Costs

If you spend a lot on heating and cooling costs, investing in a smart thermostat can automatically save you energy and money, by reducing your energy usage during hours that you are away from home or at night. Many thermostats can also set different zones of your house to heat and cool differently depending on your needs, making your energy usage more efficient.

When your appliances are in need of replacement, replace them with energy-efficient models that will automatically reduce your energy usage every time you use them.

6. Simplify and Save While Shopping

Many people can’t be bothered to cut out physical coupons and fiddle with all those little slips of paper at the store, but with smartphones, it’s much easier to automate the couponing process. Many grocery and big box stores have apps that allow you to choose the coupons you need from the app, and then apply them all by scanning your phone at checkout. Other apps aggregate coupons from many different retailers.

For regular purchases of things like diapers, toilet paper, and other necessities, consider joining an online subscription service, which will deliver your purchases to your door regularly, as well as offer a discount in the process. That way, you won’t be stuck paying full price when you have to run out and buy these items at the last minute.

7. Keep an Eye on Your Accounts

Staying aware of the activities in your accounts helps you to track your spending, as well as detect any fraudulent activity. But it can be a bit of a pain to sign into each individual credit card and bank account separately. Instead, tie your accounts into an app (such as Mint.com) that allows you to see your transactions at a glance. This will help you to rein in your spending if needed, transfer money to savings or investment accounts, as well as save time keeping track of your accounts.

By setting your finances to automatically save for you, you’ll quickly be on your way to saving both time and money.

What will you do during America Saves Week to automate your savings?

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Share Your Savings Goal to Enter The #imsavingfor Contest

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Share Your Savings Goal to Enter The #imsavingfor Contest
America Saves, You Save, I Save

 

Want to win $500 to start or build your savings? Enter the America Saves Week #imsavingfor contest. It’s easy to enter. Just share a picture of you and what you are saving for and then enter to win $500 at AmericaSavesWeek.org/imsavingfor.

Get creative with your pictures!

  • You can take a picture in front of the item you’re saving for – like a new car or house
  • Photoshop yourself with your goal – like a trip to the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore
  • You can even use a photo app to add a caption to your picture

How to enter:

  • Share a picture of what you’re saving for to your favorite social media platform (Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, LinkedIn, Tumblr) using #imsavingfor
  • Enter to win at AmericaSavesWeek.org/imsavingfor

Bonus chance to win:

Only one entry per person, but you can get an extra 3 entries by taking the next step in saving and completing the America Saves Pledge. After you enter, look for an email with your bonus opportunity information.

The contest runs from January 20 – March 6. America Saves will pick one entry at random on March 9 and contact them by email. Click here for the full official rules. 

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5 Simple Steps To Save Successfully During America Saves Week 2016

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5 Simple Steps To Save Successfully During America Saves Week 2016
America Saves, You Save, I Save

America Saves Week (February 22 – 27, 2016) is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. The theme for this year’s America Saves Week is simple: Save Automatically.

Try these five simple steps during America Saves Week to help yourself save automatically – and successfully:

1.Assess Your Savings.

Like your health, you should assess your savings annually to make sure your savings priorities are on the right track. Complete this simple 12-question assessment (link at the bottom of the post) to find out your current standing and help you plan for the future.

2. Evaluate your Savings Preparedness.

Check off your savings accomplishments on the Saver Checklist to further evaluate where your savings habits need strengthening for your future goals.

3.Take the America Saves Pledge.

Those with a savings plan are two times as likely to save for emergencies and retirement than those without one. Join more than 450,000 American Savers who have already committed to save. When you take the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save towards your goals.

4. Share Your Savings Goal.

Take part in the 2016 #imsavingfor Photo Contest. Share a selfie that shows what you’re saving for on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and enter the contest at http://americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor for a chance to win $500. Savings never looked so good.

5.Make Your Savings Social.

Are you on Twitter or Facebook? Join America Saves in encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to save this week. Better yet, join one of the many Twitter chats that America Saves will be a part of this week to get real-time savings tips and advice.

America Saves Week is a national effort to set a savings goal, make a savings plan, and save automatically. Join thousands of others who are taking time this week to start or grow their savings.

Make it official and take the America Saves Pledge. The pledge will help you stay committed to your plan all year long!

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

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What Is The Difference Between The Earned Income Credit And The Child Tax Credit

What Is The Difference Between The Earned Income Credit And The Child Tax Credit
Tax Credits

 

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are not mutually exclusive. If you meet the requirements for dependent children and income, you can claim both on your tax return. If you are unable to claim the full amount of the CTC, you can claim the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) to receive a portion of the remaining credit amount. The EITC is also available to individuals without children.

The Dependent Child Test

Both the CTC and EITC use a six prong test to determine if a child is a dependent. Failure to satisfy one of the criteria results in disqualification from eligibility to claim the credit.

  1. Age: The CTC requires that the child be age 16 or younger. The EITC allows the credit to be claimed for dependents no more than 19 years old, or 25 if the child is a full-time student.
  2. Relationship: The child must be the claimant’s biological or adopted son or daughter, stepchild, foster child or their biological brother, sister, stepbrother or stepsister. Descendants of relatives are included in the criteria, meaning that grandchildren, nieces or nephews can also qualify.
  3. Support: The child must not provide more than one-half of their own support.
  4. Dependent: The claimant must state that the child is a dependent on their tax return. This means that the child cannot file a tax return in which they claim that they are not a dependent of someone else.
  5. Citizenship: The child must be a U.S. citizen, national or resident alien.
  6. Residence: With a few exceptions for deceased or kidnapped children, the child must live with the claimant for more than six months of the year.

The only difference between the dependent tests for the two credits is the age requirement. Additionally, the EITC is available to individuals without dependents.

The Earned Income Tax Credit Explained

The EITC is a tax credit offered to low-income individuals. To qualify for the credit, the taxpayer must not make more than the maximum allowed amount. They do not need to have a dependent child, but the amount of the credit increases if they do. The specific amount of the credit depends on the claimant’s earnings. Each year the IRS sets new income limits and credit amounts. The claimant themselves must be employed, but they may be self-employed. If the credit amount reduces the taxpayer’s total tax liability below zero they are entitled to a refund of the remaining amount.

The Child Tax Credit Explained

The CTC provides taxpayers with dependent children with as much as $1,000 tax credit per child. The credit is only claimable on forms 1040, 1040A or 1040NR. The total amount of credit depends on the taxpayer’s income, reducing after the taxpayer exceeds the allowable maximum income:

  • Married Filing Jointly: $110,000
  • Married Filing Separately: $55,000
  • All Other Taxpayer Statuses: $75,000

The credit for taxpayers earning more than the maximum is reduced by 5 percent of their excess earnings. For example, to determine the credit for a married taxpayer filing separately with an income of $60,000, multiply the $5,000 of excess income by 5 percent (.05). The result is $250.00. Next, subtract the $250 from the maximum $1,000 credit allowed. The result, $750.00, is what the taxpayer can claim for a dependent child.

Unlike the EITC, however, the CTC is not a refundable credit. This means that any amount of the credit remaining after the taxpayer eliminates their tax liability altogether is not returned to them. Instead, the taxpayer can claim the Additional Child Tax Credit on Form 8812. The ACTC refunds 15 percent of the excess amount of the CTC to the taxpayer.

Claiming the EITC, CTC and ACTC

The EITC and CTC are not mutually exclusive. This means that you can claim both on your tax return, provided that you meet the six prong criteria test for each credit. Remember that each carries a different dependent age maximum. Additionally, if you do not receive a refund for the CTC, you can claim the ACTC.

Some experts state that you should never receive a refund. This advice, however, rests on the fact that financial experts see any refund as an overpayment to the government. Because overpayments mean that you did not have control over your money for the last year because it was in IRS hands, they view refunds as an indication that the taxpayer did not properly calculate their tax liability.

Experts do not state that you should not claim tax credits or request refunds when you are entitled to them. Therefore, if you qualify for the EITC, CTC or ACTC, complete the proper forms to claim them on your return.

 

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America Saves Week

America Saves Week
America Saves, I save, You save!

 

Next week begins America Saves Week, and I am excited to partner with http://americasavesweek.org/ to help my readers and my community begin or increase their savings accounts.

America Saves Week, February 22 – 27, 2016, is an annual opportunity for organizations and individuals to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status. Millions of individuals learn the importance of saving.

How Can Individuals Participate?

Take the America Saves Pledge

  • Set a goal and make a plan to save. Join over 390,000 people who have pledged to save and take the America Saves Pledge today. Already taken the pledge?  America Saves encourages you to recommit to your savings goal and re-pledge today. Military? Take the Military Saves Pledge.

Assess Your Savings Progress

  • Find out if you are saving in all the right places.

Saver Checklist

  • Check off your savings accomplishments to see how you’re doing.

#imsavingfor Photo Contest

  • To celebrate the upcoming America Saves Week, America Saves is launching the #imsavingfor contest. It’s easy to enter. Just share a picture of you and what you are saving for and then enter to win $500 at AmericaSavesWeek.org/imsavingfor

I hope you will join me by taking the pledge to SAVE!

 

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Frugal Friday

Frugal friday
Frugal Friday

Okay, so if you have been following me any length of time, you already know that I am frugal. I am a staunch proponent of saving money whenever and however possible. Take a look at the video below and learn just how I save money on breakfast and lunch while at work. This, and other lunch and breakfast techniques, has saved me countless dollars

 

 

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New Tax Laws For This Season

New tax laws for 2015
Tax Time

 

Perhaps nothing confuses you more than the ever changing tax laws. Tax laws are always changing even if it is just to keep up with inflation adjustments.

Some tax laws are tweaked every year, with few people, outside the tax profession, ever noticing. Provisions of tax laws that have been in place in past years are still being phased in, and there can be uncertainty about which tax breaks will be extended.

Here are some of the changes for 2015 that may affect you.

The health insurance penalty is ramping up significantly.

If you didn’t have health insurance in 2014, and you didn’t qualify for an exception to the penalty, the consequences weren’t so bad. You may have paid $95 per person or 1 percent of your household income, whichever was greater.

In 2015, you’ll pay $325 per person, or 2 percent of your household income, whichever is greater. That’s a steep increase.

Even if you qualify for one of the many exclusions, you may not know that some exceptions require you to apply for a certificate from the state or federal marketplace. You should do this in plenty of time so you have the required exemption certificate number when you prepare your return.

The IRS is cracking down on IRA rollovers.

It was an easy way to “borrow” retirement money for up to 60 days. Taxpayers could withdraw money from one IRA and wait up to 60 days before they moved it into another IRA. As of 2015, you can only do that once from an IRA in a 12-month period. If you want to move IRA funds using “trustee-to-trustee” transfers, you can still do that as often as you want.

Health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are subject to new rules.

The good news for people who don’t use all their FSA amounts by the end of the year was that as of 2013, they could roll over $500 from an FSA into the next plan year. Starting in 2015, the bad news is that as a result, they will be ineligible to participate in a Health Savings Account (HSA) for the year into which they rolled over an amount from a general purpose FSA.

While this is just a few of the changes, be sure to check with a tax professional regarding your unique situation.

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Frugal Friday: 10 Way’s To Save On Valentines Day

frugal friday 10 ways to save on valentines day
Valentines Day

 

Ahhhh the day for lovers. It is leap year sooooo, we as women are expected to give the men a gift. Well I have been married for 22 year’s so every year is leap year. Over the years, Big Daddy and I, have learned a few way’s to save on Valentines Day gifts, without sacrificing quality. In todays frugal Friday post, I will share 10 way’s that we save.

1. DIY gifts

Instead of buying a super expensive piece of jewelry or something equally as wallet-busting, give a unique and personal token of your love. It can be a poem or a paint-it-yourself ceramic bowl, maybe a photo collage or short video you compiled of the two of you. Whatever you choose to design, your Valentine will love the ingenuity and thought you put forth into them.

2. Groupon

If you don’t know about Groupon you are missing an opportunity to save money on the activities and restaurants you already love and to be introduced to new haunts at a price you can’t refuse. If you’re like me you have an endless supply of Groupon and Living Social deals that you haven’t cashed in yet so now’s the time to take your deals to the bank. Even if they are expired you don’t use the value paid to that merchant so you can still credit that Groupon towards your Valentine’s Date and since it’s all handled digitally, your lover never has to know that their romantic date was done on a discount.

3. Skip the roses

Almost 200 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day alone. It is also no secret that the price of roses, like most things, are dictated by supply and demand. There are a finite number of roses, and there is a higher demand for those roses especially around Valentine’s Day. There are so many factors that go into the price of roses all the way from the grower to the wholesaler and then finally to your local florist shop. The price increases for Valentine’s Day continues through the supply chain whether we like it or not. One way that you can save money on Valentines Day is to not buy roses. You may be able to find a better deal on a different variety of flowers if you have to have some type of flowers for your loved one on Valentine’s Day.

4. Set a spending limit

You all know that I am all for spending limits. Not having a spending limit is one of the biggest problems that get the most people in trouble with overspending on Valentine’s Day. You should have a frank and honest discussion with your loved one before hand on how much you are going to spend on Valentines Day gifts and food for the special day. Setting the limit and expectations before hand can help you manage the day and save your wallet too.

5. Celebrate on an alternate day

If you cannot afford to go out on February 14th, another great way to save money on Valentines Day is to choose an alternate day. It will not only be cheaper, but it will be less crowded even if you pick one or two days to the left or right on the calendar to celebrate. A day is a day is a day and doesn’t really matter the actual date as long as you spend it with your loved one.

6. Skip it

This will hit home with everyone who is heartbroken and bummed out during this time of year. But, there is nothing wrong with couples and married folks simply skipping this particular holiday in favor of saving money. When my husband and I didn’t have sufficient money we just skipped the holiday altogether. We already knew that we were each others valentine.

7. Skip the gifts

Skip the gifts and spend your money on making memories. She/he doesn’t need diamond on Valentine’s Day. Save that for more meaningful holidays like his/her birthday or Christmas. Focus your efforts on doing something you’ve never done before as a couple.

8. Gift Wisely

You are spending your hard-earned cash, so be sure that your honey is getting something they value. Instead of giving flowers and chocolates, try giving something they could use like a piece of technology or something they’ve wanted. They’ll surely love that more than the calories from the sweets they normally receive.

9. Consider free options

Spending no money at all will be a challenge, but a few free entertainment options can be found. Have a picnic at a local park. Send your loved one romantic text messages throughout the day. Create your own Valentine’s Day card if you’re artistically inclined; or if not, find a romantic poem online and transcribe it. A personal touch is always more appealing than a canned greeting card.

10. Give the gift of service

Nothing makes me happier than when my husband does some of my housework for me. Sometimes he makes coupons with chores, such as, do the laundry, or mop the kitchen etc. I can pick a coupon and he does whatever is on it. That saves me a lot when I am tired and is very helpful. The best part about it the coupons are good for the entire year, so I can use them over and over.

The more creative that you are with Valentine’s Day, the more money you will save. Sometimes the simple things in life create the best memories.

 
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